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A Halloween Book Recommendation, If You Dare!

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A Halloween Book Recommendation, If You Dare!

A Halloween Book Recommendation, If You Dare!

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Back by popular demand now, Jesse Kornbluth. On his Web site,, Jesse makes uncommon recommendations for movies, music and books. Several weeks ago, after we had him on, many of you wrote in to ask for more. Jesse Kornbluth is delighted to oblige. We've dubbed him our cultural concierge, and he's in our New York Bureau.

Welcome back, Jesse.

Mr. JESSE KORNBLUTH ( Well, it's a particular pleasure because you've asked me to talk about scary things for Halloween, and Halloween is a Hallmark holiday on and thus to be avoided as surely as a plumber at the door whom one has not called.

ELLIOTT: Let's give folks a quick reminder of just what is before we get started.

Mr. KORNBLUTH: Well, there's just so much stuff out there. Culture comes at us, you know like a real tsunami now and it comes amazingly hyped, and you know, you're supposed to pay attention to this and that. Most of it is garbage. So what I do is look for, you know, the little grass growing between the cracks and find - see if I can find something that's really wonderful that is deserving and that people will actually like. I mean it's not obscure at all.

ELLIOTT: So even though right now there's all kinds of Halloween stuff out there trying to grab our attention, you're going to scare us in a way that we might not be ready for?

Mr. KORNBLUTH: Oh, we're ready to be scared for Halloween. I just read a piece in the New York Times that, you know, we're sufficiently over 9/11 that we want to be scared again, and it's perfectly okay - even Bergdorf Goodman has a Goth window. And this marketer says how do you scare people who are immune to being scared? That, in fact, is a really stupid question, because the thing is, we are scared. We are not immune from being scared. We are living with being scared.

Now, Alfred Hitchcock said the way to make people be frightened is to give them a fear bigger than the fears they live with daily. And so I've picked a book that I think does that admirably. The book is the classic Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me. Jim Thompson also wrote The Getaway and The Grifters. He wrote 29 books, 26 of which appeared as paperback originals, and he died forgotten and unknown. But The Killer Inside Me from 1952 is perhaps the most unsettling book I have ever read. I mean, I'm telling you, seriously, you will shake for days afterwards. You will feel not quite right, and worse, of course, you won't have put it down. So you know, you'll miss supper or you'll miss whatever was planned for you. And the reason is, it's told in the first person, thus The Killer Inside Me.

And the killer is Lou Ford, who is a deputy sheriff in a small West Texas town, and he pretends to be a stupid bore, but inside, as he knows, he is a killer who will stop at nothing for, you know, the pleasure of murder.


Mr. KORNBLUTH: Very, very creepy fare, but brilliantly done. Thompson wrote it in four weeks.

ELLIOTT: I'm not really sure I'd want to read that book.

Mr. KORNBLUTH: Let's just say you could say that, but if you started it, then that's the last thing you'd say for the next three hours. He's really good.

ELLIOTT: The head butler and our cultural concierge, Jesse Kornbluth. His Web site is, ours is Thanks, Jesse.

Mr. KORNBLUTH: Debbie, thank you. Happy Halloween.

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